06 September 2017

News Story: N. Korea's nuclear test emboldens U.S. to shoot down its missiles - ex-American diplomat

US THAAD Missile Defense System
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- The United States is "significantly" more likely to strike down a North Korean missile in the wake of the regime's sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date, a former State Department official said Monday.

Alan Romberg, who served in various capacities dealing with East Asia through the 1990s, made the observation after Pyongyang on Sunday detonated what it said was an H-bomb ready for delivery on a long-range missile.

If the claim is true, it would mean that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has moved closer to acquiring the capability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon.

"While it would require careful consideration of the consequences, I believe that this latest test, following on the two ICBM tests, significantly raises the possibility that the U.S. might seek to shoot down a North Korean missile heading in a direction that could be seen as threatening to U.S. territory or the territory of one of its allies," Romberg said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency.

He was referencing the North's intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, which analysts said theoretically put cities like Chicago and Los Angeles within range. Tensions reached new levels as U.S. President Donald Trump responded with threats to unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang, and the Kim regime hit back with threats to lob missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.

Romberg, who now works as director of the East Asia program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington, said it is safe to assume North Korea will ultimately succeed in developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile if it hasn't yet.

"Whether within a year or two or perhaps over a somewhat longer time frame, what I think we need to understand is that the North has no intention of allowing itself to be put off course before it has acquired a deliverable intercontinental nuclear attack capability," he said.

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